There comes a time in a relationship when you no longer feel the need to connect — you simply connect. You are not trying to replicate your histories, but rather you are seeking out differentiation and growth as individuals. This is a good thing.
The following are some signals that you and your partner have reached a “critical mass” of healthy differentiation, or, to put it another way, signs that the relationship between you and your partner is getting healthier:
1. You end up expressing the things that you are the most afraid to express.
And you say these things out of respect for your partner, as an act of integrity to care for your relationship, and because you want the best for it. People tend to delude themselves that they are “protecting” their partner by preventing them from speaking the profound truth. When people are most willing to speak their truth and open themselves up to their partner’s truth, paradoxically, this is also the time when relationships are most likely to be repaired and saved.
2. When one partner observes the changes that are taking place in the other… differentiating
A good number of us are familiar with the sensation that comes with differentiation, and if we are healthy, then we can wane this in another person as a health rather than a personal rejection or attack. You may observe that your partner is better able to self-soothe, that they require less validation from you and are instead able to validate themselves, and that they no longer view disagreements in the relationship as a reflection of a personal failing on their part.
3. More peace.
Less conflict. More peace. Fewer anxious feelings. A greater degree of ease. Even the smallest things no longer disturb you, and when there is a disagreement between the two of you, you are both able to find a middle ground, hold each other’s differences, and heal the relationship more swiftly. The tone is hushed and introspective instead of angry and chaotic.
In health relationships, the stonewalling and stony silence are replaced with a an ongoing communication style that is more serious, introspective, peaceful, and polite. Each partner is able to consider how they contribute to conflict and accepts responsibility for the influence they have on the other partner.
4. Distance-Pursuer cycles stop.
When critical mass is reached, the chase between the distance and the pursuer comes to an end. The pursuer gives up their approach of criticizing and prodding the distancer to engage them, and now they can maintain their position with self-awareness and reflection. The person who is keeping their distance will no longer withdraw or stonewall since they realize that this tactic is only successful when they are being followed. Most of the time, the partner who is being pursued is the one who initially appeared to be excessively reliant but now behaves autonomously and independently. The more detached partners, who previously seemed to have everything under control, now have more room to feel feelings and have attachment needs. Partners must take action and speak up.
Changing your actions and the way you behave is necessary to increase your level of distinction. You have gone beyond “business as usual.” And so, all of the methods and routines that were previously your go-to responses, such as posturing, denying, being defensive, and making critical arguments, are rendered obsolete. Partners have more defined boundaries, can express themselves with controlled clarity, and have the confidence to stand up for what they think without attacking or criticizing their spouse.
5. Partners engage in one another’s company face to face.
Self-validated intimacy refers to a relationship in which each partner expresses themselves to the other from a place of “quiet certainty.” You articulate your argument and share your experience without pressuring your partner to agree with you or give up their unique point of view while yet proving that you are right. Partners express their thoughts in an atmosphere free of criticism. Even when unpleasant topics come up in conversation, all parties involved feel heard, understood, and seen when these kinds of connections are made.
6. No more guilt or embarrassment.
When you stop perceiving your partner as the problem, you stop blaming and criticizing them, which in turn reduces the amount of defensiveness that your partner exhibits. When the level of disparity between partners reaches a critical mass, only the most important concerns remain significant. Because either one or both spouses will no longer tolerate it, it is no longer safe to point the finger at blame or criticize the other. There is less of a need to take out one’s frustrations on another person, as well as less tolerance for doing so.
7. Anger does not escalate.
There may be brief outbursts of anger, but it does not persist or grow. When someone is angry, they are immediately aware of their feelings and have the ability to self-soothe and, if necessary, make necessary repairs.
8. Ultimatums halt.
People who engage in the practice of issuing many ultimatums lack integrity in their relationships because they do not follow through on their threats. The employment of ultimatums is a tactic that is used to keep control of a situation; however, once you have achieved critical mass, there is no longer a need to keep control due to the amount of peace that exists between you and the other party.
9. Each partner reclaims lost aspects of their identity, which results in an increased sense of wholeness.
When each partner can discriminate between their attachment styles and accepts responsibility for those styles, they can find “lost” or underdeveloped aspects of themselves. For instance, a woman who has been labeled as “insensitive” realizes, when confronted with her partner’s newly developed ability to self-soothe, that she now has more room to experience all of the sentiments that she repressed in the past.
A healthy relationship is one where individuals can remain as individuals, yet also come together for a connection that benefits them both.